According to CNN Mia Gonzalez spent the first 3-and-a-half years of her life having to miss out on every day life events because she had constant colds, and also the much more serious pneumonia.
Her parents thought she had asthma but, after about 10 hospital stays, were told she had a malformation in her aorta, the vessel that pumps blood from the heart, and would need surgery.
“We freaked out to go from thinking she had asthma to being told she needed to have open heart surgery,” Katherine Gonzalez, Mia’s mom, told CNN.
The complicated nature of Mia’s malformation meant surgeons at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami, decided to use a newly acquired piece of technology – a 3D printer – to make a replica of Mia’s heart in order to be able to plan, and practice, her operation.
Dr. Redmond Burke, the director of paediatric cardiovascular surgery, carried the model of Mia’s heart around for at least two weeks, showing it to colleagues to get their input and even carrying it around in his gym bag for quick reference.
“Without the model, I would have been less certain about (operating on Mia) and that would have led me naturally to make a larger incision that could possibly cause more pain and a longer recovery time,” Burke said.
Using the model, “there was no doubt, and surgeons hate doubt,” he said.
He said the model saved he and his team about two hours in the operating room.
Burke and his team have created models for a number of young patients who, in the past, may have been deemed too risky for surgery.
According to CNN about 75 hospitals in the United States, and 200 worldwide, have a printer such as the one used to make a model of Mia’s heart.